drug war heresies

I have just finished reading Drug War Heresies by Robert MacCoun and Peter Reuter. Their conclusion is that policy change is necessary, but not the change legalizers or drug warriors suggest might hope for. They believe zero-tolerance policies are both unrealistic and at least the way they are practiced today, prejudicial, unfair and cruel. They also believe the proponents of legalization are as much driven by ideology as their drug war opponents and have unrealistic expectations.

The majority of the book is marked by a reliance on facts. Each analysis is couched in terms that define the limits of its reliability or applicability for any particular purpose. They make the adage false that you can say anything with statistics. They attempt to let the facts speak for themselves without any underlying bias. If you are looking for an ideological solution, you will not find it here. This makes the book appear cautious, which it is. They certainly want to see change in the current regime, they are not willing to do anything more than nudge us in the right direction.

Though they are sure that a legalization regime would reduce the overall harm done by drugs, they are as sure that the moral temper of the nation is incapable of supporting such a regime. As well, the commercial history of alcohol and tobacco tell that these industries have effectively skirted the boundaries set for them, increasing publicity and probably prevalence of use of their respective products in the society.

The European experiments with drug control are examined. They have problems not entirely unlike ours, yet the lessons learned from their policies are difficult to map onto our society.

I heartily recommend the book for its scope and concentration. On the basis of this sort of work, the probability of fair progress seems possible.

states flout federal law

I am listening to a web chat between Angel Raich who was involved in the failed Supreme Court case on medical marijuana, Ethan Nadelmann and Dan Abrahamson of the Drug Policy Alliance. Dan said that in the late nineteen twenties, early thirties, states had begun to repeal their own prohibition laws essentially saying to the federal government, “If you want to enforce these laws you will do it without our cooperation.”

It is Dan’s view that the same state of affairs is growing currently in the U.S. with respect to marijuana that existed then with respect to alcohol. This put into perspective the view I held subconsciously. The federal government, with all its political clout will end up a prince without any subjects. All the pressure it is currently putting on states to prevent or turn back medical marijuana legislation or even decriminalization statutes will be in vain in the near future.

The federal government is currently enforcing its harsh penalties against marijuana even though the base of voters that agrees with those policies is steadily diminishing, irrespective of their desire to use marijuana personally.

the marijuana memo #2

Thanks for visiting the Marijuana Memo web site and blog. This is the second edition of the podcast. In it I discuss some of the moral implications of the war on marijuana with some references to the success and failure of federal legislation and the terrible politics that institutes that legislation.

For a full transcript of the podcast see “morality of the drug war” under Pages in the menu on the right.